Letters for February 16, 2006

Shred isn’t dead
“Shredded out” (Arts & Culture, Feb. 2):

Chase Carpenter was in way over his head in tackling the age-old question about shred, guitarists and musical ability vs. mainstream music. What a load of crap. Instead of interviewing a storeowner and a lifer student of academic music libraries, Carpenter should’ve spent a couple weeks out in the pubs, jams and streets—out where real musicians ply their trade to real people.

In real-life, real-time settings, the simplest modern cover band or casino player has to be able to jump from “All Right Now” to “Folsom Prison Blues,” to play Bad Company to Toby Keith, and play them well enough not to get booed out the door. Who wants to top off their $150 dinner/vacation date by listening to a no-talent bunch of tweakers trying to play NIN songs because the band bought that new NIN sounding-pedal yesterday?

Go spend a Franklin of your own and watch the locals like Mark Castro, Johnny Fingers, John Oakes or Luckey Walker perform some weekend. And don’t stick around for one set—get there early and stay ’til the very end—both nights. Then go help the band load all that gear. Examine the calloused fingertips and crappy vehicles and the increasingly rare $100 bill that are often the only things a “good” guitar player goes home with. Do you think the solo from “Rock Around the Clock” or “Crossroads” is easy?

If shred is dead, then why are all the classic rock radio “work” stations still on the air? Where are the “Emo” stations? Shredding is a skill, just one of many tools a working musician must have to even begin to please a roomful of drinkers, dancers and dry-wallers.

Despite any stereotypical images of ‘80s hair bands, it takes years of dedication to play even the simplest melodic lead or familiar bassline. If kids can’t learn to play these days, well, then let them sit around and strum dissonant emo-punk or other manufactured modern mediocrity to their heart’s content. Punch on all the pedals you want, kid—either you can play or you can’t. When it comes to entertaining the masses, shred is far from dead.

Ernest Wayne

Use your freedoms
Re “Protesters are hurtful to those who fight” (Right Hook, Feb. 2):

Like Kathleen Mull, I am the mother of a son who is a member of the 101st Airborne Air Assault and is currently stationed in Iraq. Like Ms. Mull, I don’t believe anyone can want a war less than the parent of a son or daughter on active duty. Like Ms. Mull, I, too, am proud of my son for his service. I take exception, however, to her sweeping statement that protests are “extremely hurtful for those of us who have children serving overseas.” I do not find protests hurtful. It makes me feel better to see that the very rights our young people are dying for are being exercised to their fullest. I have asked my son, and he agrees. He does not feel betrayed by war protestors.

I also think that it is important that people understand that not every person who joined the military and is on active duty in this war did so out of some overwhelming sense of patriotism. In discussions with my son, other soldiers, and other families, it becomes clear that many young people enlist out of economic need. The lack of decent-paying jobs, money for college, or the inability for a young person to make it on their own economically makes the military an attractive alternative. While I in no way want to be misinterpreted as saying that these young people are not patriotic, the truth is that patriotism was not the motivation to join for many of them. The implication that all enlisted men and women “choose to leave the safety and bountifulness of our own beloved country to help secure peace in other places” is wishful thinking and good PR, but not a universal truth. Some really are just doing the job they get paid for—nothing more, nothing less.

I would also like to point out that many who protest the war already do the things Ms. Mull suggests, such as adopting a soldier. The two—protesting the war and supporting the troops—are not mutually exclusive, as is demonstrated everyday in our community.

My appreciation goes out to the Mull family and all other families who have a loved member on active duty. I appreciate, also, the opportunity to have my family’s experience expressed.

Rebecca Thomas

Homeland insecurity
The sad issue about the Bush NSA illegal wiretaps is that, with a simple request to the FISA court, all of these wiretaps could have been legal. Members of both parties are in agreement that Bush could and should have obtained permission for these wiretaps within the law. But Bush chose to circumvent both the FISA laws and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Although it has become apparent that innocent civilians ended up under surveillance by this program, the real issue is this: Due to Bush’s illegal wiretaps, real terrorists could walk free because of the illegality of these surveillance methods. Tell me, Mr. Bush, exactly how does that make America safe?

Chris Rosamond